grammy post mortem 2018

U2 performing by the Hudson River during last night’s Grammy Awards telecast. Photo by Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images.

The young celebs dressed up and relished stardom, but with U2 singing on the Hudson, Emmylou Harris eulogizing Tom Petty with Chris Stapleton and Patti LuPone again showing Broadway who’s boss, last night Grammy Awards ceremony largely belonged to the vets.

Our annual Grammy post mortem focuses, with only a few exceptions, on the broadcast’s parade of live performances. Frankly, outside of Stapleton’s win for Best Country Album, none of the actual awards really mattered. Here’s what I experienced from the couch:

+ Kendrick Lamar: The show opening “XXX” sported a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo by U2 and askew commentary by Dave Chappelle for an unsettling snapshot of the times. Far more moving, though, was Lamar’s acceptance speech later in the program for winning Best Rap Album – a gleeful acknowledgement of inspiration over material reward.

+ Lady Gaga: A stoic, sobering reading of “Joanne” and “Million Reasons” with producer/guitarist Mark Ronson as prime accompanist.

+ Tony Bennett and John Legend: From the presenters’ podium, the cross generational singers celebrated with a verse of “New York, New York” before presenting Best Rap/Sung performance to Lamar and Rihanna for “Loyalty.”

+ Little Big Town: The Taylor Swift-penned “Better Man” is a fairly routine country-pop confection, but vocalist Karen Fairchild made the tune her own.

+ Best New Artist: Alessia Cara won out of the dullest pack of nominees for this category in decades.

+ Jon Batiste and Gary Clark Jr.: The duo gave the Grammys some serious schooling in the essentials by honoring Fats Domino and Chuck Berry in a medley of “Ain’t That a Shame” and “Maybellene

+ Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee: The monster Latin hit “Despacito” became a dance party bathed in pink and blue neon. Bored me silly, but fans that streamed the song 10 million times last year undoubtedly hold a different opinion.

+ Childish Gambino: The hit “Terrified” worked nicely as a slice of after hours R&B led by Gambino and JD McCrary doing battle in the vocal stratosphere.

+ Pink: A simple, dressed-down delivery of “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken” that properly placed the operatic clarity of Pink’s singing front and center.

+ James Corden, Sting and Shaggy: The three teamed for a New York version of Car Pool Karaoke only to be ridiculed by everyone in the subway. “Whose stupid idea was this?” muttered Sting, eyeing Grammy host Corden. Hysterical.

+ Bruno Mars and Cardi B: Pity anyone who shares the stage with the tireless Mr. Mars. All the finesse in this athletic take on “Finesse” belonged to him alone.

+ Sting and Shaggy: A reggae-fied “Englishman in New York” nicely celebrated the Grammys’ return to the Big Apple with Shaggy’s “Don’t Make Me Wait” as a somewhat ragged bonus.

+ Rihanna, DJ Khaled, Bryson Tiller: In presenting the generic party piece “Wild Thoughts,” DJ Khaled proved himself the most intrusive and disposable performer of the night.

+ Best Country Album: Chris Stapleton’s “From a Room, Vol. 1” was the only sensible choice, but that didn’t mean the Grammys could have muffed it and awarded Kenny Chesney instead. To everyone’s great fortune, that didn’t happen. Kentucky country ruled.

+ Maren Morris, Eric Church and Brothers Osborne: A country alliance paying tribute to those who died in concert shootings/bombings in Las Vegas and Manchester. Very well intentioned, but the vocal blend was a train wreck. So this is what Nashville sounds like without autotuning? Yikes.

+ Kesha: An affirmation of identity and independence laced with thunderous retribution, “Praying” was brought to potent, elegiac life with the sisterly help of an all-star chorus.

+ U2 : Performing “Get Out of Your Own Way” by the Hudson River with the Statue of Liberty towering over them, the Irish band, bundled in winter garb like they were 35 years ago for the “New Year’s Day” video, championed the Dreamers. Still relevant after all these years.

+ Elton John and Miley Cyrus: A gruff, cross generational performance of one of Sir Elton’s greatest works, “Tiny Dancer.” Serviceable.

+ Patti LuPone: Here’s your freakin’ Grammy moment – LuPone, at 68, belting out “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” with a vigor, grace and drama that should have dropped the jaws of every other performer at Madison Square Garden last night. Poor Ben Platt. The “Dear Evan Hansen” star’s take on “Somewhere,” the first part of a Broadway tribute, was dwarfed.

+ Sza: Not getting it. A perfunctory performance of “Broken Clocks,” which was already an unremarkable pop-soul exercise to begin with.

+ Record of the Year: Bruno Mars for ‘24 K Magic.’ We’re now three hours into the ceremony, so forgive me for being underwhelmed.

+ Chris Stapleton and Emmylou Harris: Two solid-as-oak country spirits singing Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers” to preface the “In Memoriam” tribute. Two guitars, two voices. Nothing else needed.

+ Logic: His suicide prevention prayer “1-800-273-8255” came out of “In Memoriam” as a photo of Chester Bennington loomed over a stark stage. Point made.

+ Album of the Year: Bruno Mars again for ‘24 K Magic.’ A gracious acceptance, a powerhouse artist, a big so-what of a win. And at three hours and 34 minutes, that’s a wrap.



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